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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

How My Daughter's Death Taught Me
The Meaning of Life


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Sweet Krissie,

I still have little conversations with you. Can you hear me? The other day I was thinking about how you'd run up the sidewalk and into my arms after school, talking a mile a minute about your day. I'm not sure what triggered that memory. I guess because you're always in my thoughts. Little pieces of paper with "I love you, Mommy," your drawings, and even the phone book where you wrote your friends' names and numbers have become my little treasures.

Do you know that you'd now be an auntie? Your brother, Michel, married Jenny, a Bolivian woman you would love, about four years ago and they now have a baby named Joseph Michel. Knowing how much you loved babies, I think you'd be crazy about him. He's beautiful! I guess you'd be all grown up as well. Good heavens! For most of us who loved you, you will always be seven. I try not to let the decades come between us as I keep you in my heart. In an afterlife you may be older, but I only know you as my little Krissie.

Oh, how we rejoiced the day you were born! I think back to what a struggle it had been in the weeks before. We were so worried. At seven months, you were just a peanut when my membranes ruptured. I was ordered to stay put in bed and to move around as little as possible. The doctors worried that if you were born early, you might not survive. But you decided to come seven weeks early anyway. Such a determined little spirit!

You were slightly under five pounds and dropped to just over three. This was explained to us as normal after a birth, but that didn't alleviate my fear that you might die. My concern only intensified when they put you in an isolette incubator and I couldn't even hold you. You were so tiny that you fit in a shoebox. But you were beautiful with rosy skin and thick dark brown curly hair that covered your whole head. Such a little doll! In fact, once you were stronger, the nurses on the preemie ward often dressed you in doll clothes because typical newborn clothes were way too big. Your dad and I counted your fingers and toes and thanked God that the complications from your premature birth appeared to be only minor.

Because you were so little, your doctor kept you in the hospital for another ten days until you gained weight. You also needed antibiotics for a minor infection that had come from the placenta. Krissie, how strange to leave you there, but we knew it was best. We visited you all the time and just wanted you to be okay. The Isolette protected you, but you looked so alone. As a new infant, you should have been cuddled, but the only way to hold you was to wear an isolation gown and stretch my arms through the sleeves and gloves of the Isolette.

You were hooked up to IVs, and your little arms and legs were all bruised from the drawing of blood and antibiotic shots. I couldn't bear when they'd stick you with yet another needle and you screamed in pain. Your doctors told us not to worry, but how was that possible?

When you were finally released from the hospital, the whole family celebrated. The worst was over, and your only real problem was an inability to suck. The nurses showed me how to teach you by pressing the bottle nipple against the roof of your mouth, which forced you to take little swallows. You looked like a little swallow trying to do this.

Because you could take only an ounce at a time, you needed to be fed every hour. Your dad was a surgical resident and spent long hours at the hospital, so feeding duties were mine alone. Michel was then 18 months old and in constant motion. I was so sleep-deprived that I don't know how I was of use to either of you.

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